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Do You Know What’s In Your Olive Oil?

Do You Know What's In Your Olive Oil? -- FamilySpice.com

Hi everyone! I am back from my month of obscurity. I would love to report that I spent the time on a tropical island or in a 5-star resort or hitting the ski slopes. Nor was I climbing Mt. Everest or hiking through Europe. Unfortunately, no wild vacation for me. I spent the month in front of my computer. I did escape the electronic hold to celebrate the holidays, but my very understanding family knew the monitor and the work had to be done.

The good news is that my olive oil book with Mary/California Greek Girl is with our editor (insert happy dance) and it will be sent off to the printer in a few short weeks! Woohoo! The 132-page, hardback cookbook will be available this March 2014. I will have all the details in the next couple of weeks, but for now, I can relax – at least for a little bit.

This crazy roller coaster ride that started last Spring has really opened my eyes. I always thought I chose quality ingredients. And when I didn’t, I knew that, too. I didn’t fool myself when I enjoyed a fast food burger or bought a frozen pizza. I knew what I was getting. I read labels – boy, do I read labels. I also know I am buying quality when I bring home fresh produce at my farmer’s market or natural food market. Quality matters to me.

I also thought I was buying extra virgin olive oil – the good stuff, too.

I admit it. I’m like most people, I look for deals. I thought expensive olive oil was overpriced. Then I learned about olive oil - Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

The news broke out all over the world about the adulteration of extra virgin olive oil, but it barely hit the radar with average consumers here in the US. What’s the news? Simply put, olive oils claiming to be extra virgin were not.

In a recent report, 69 percent of imported olive oil samples and 10 percent of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin failed to meet the IOC/USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil.

—  source The Olive Oil Times

Pressed olives. Do You Know What's In Your Olive Oil? -- FamilySpice.com

Extra virgin olive oil is produced from the first mechanical pressing of freshly picked olives. Extra virgin olive oil is extremely low in acidity. All those health benefits you heard about olive oil? That’s not from the refined stuff. It’s from extra virgin olive oil.

Many extra virgin olive oils that were found to be fraudulent were mixed in with cheaper oils, such as avocado or sunflower. Some had refined or chemically altered olive oil mixed in. Chlorophyl was found to be added to give the “olive oil” a green color.

NOT extra virgin olive oil. Do You Know What's In Your Olive Oil? -- FamilySpice.com

You also have those clever marketing tactics to confuse consumers about what they are buying: extra light, pure, virgin… Will the real extra virgin olive oil please stand up?

Those clear glass bottles that show off that beautiful olive oil you find in the store aisles? Exposed to light, any light, and that olive oil is rancid before it even makes it to your kitchen. Those discounted gourmet olive oils you find at your favorite Marshall’s or Ross? Odds are it is old, well past its harvest date and expiration date.

Olive oils from all over the world were found guilty of these practices, but not everyone in the industry is guilty. How do you guarantee that you are buying the real deal? If you can, get to know your local olive growers. Find an olive oil specialty store. Ask questions. Taste the expensive stuff. Taste the cheap stuff. Taste the difference. I think you will be surprised to find that you have probably been using rancid olive oil.

Does your extra virgin olive oil pass the test? And no, the refrigerator test will not tell you if your extra virgin olive oil is authentic or not. Myth busted. Sorry, Dr. Oz.

My husband, the skeptic, is a convert. We have been tasting a lot of olive oils at home and have enjoyed some damn fine EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil from California, Greece and elsewhere. Now I knew I was enjoying the good stuff. My eyes have been opened, my husband’s too. I know we will never go back to rancid olive oil.

NOT extra virgin olive oil. Do You Know What's In Your Olive Oil? -- FamilySpice.com

Don’t let the sticker price scare you off from real extra virgin olive oil. If you are willing to spend $20 on a bottle of wine that gets consumed in one sitting, why not spend $20 on a bottle of extra virgin olive oil that will last you much longer than one night?

Extra Light Olive Oil is NOT Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Light Olive Oil is NOT Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Pure Olive Oil is NOT Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Virgin Olive Oil is NOT Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

NOT extra virgin olive oil. Do You Know What's In Your Olive Oil? -- FamilySpice.com

Get informed. Demand the real deal. Demand quality extra virgin olive oil.

Then, buy our book to learn what to do with it!

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15 Responses to Do You Know What’s In Your Olive Oil?

  1. I promise to be a better shopper for extra virgin olive oil. wish you could suggest some brands you found that passed the test – but I know you cannot advertise on your site…

    • I can’t test the oils myself, but Tom Mueller has his list: http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/great-oil

      There’s a specific Kirkland brand and Trader Joe’s brand that is deemed worthy. He also has a list of other supermarket finds that are not expensive but are extra virgin olive oil.

      And of course, our friends at Temecula Olive Oil has some pretty darn good stuff!

  2. It’s not only olive oil that goes rancid in those clear glass (or plastic) bottles; canola oil can too, and probably all oils. I actually buy pure olive oil on purpose, but use it when I panfry or brown things. Using EVOO is a waste – most of the volatile oils that carry the flavor seem to disappear during the cooking process. There was a really interesting Wall Street Journal article on EVOO a couple of months ago, making many of the points in your post. They say the Trader Joe’s EVOO is pretty good stuff. We do use it, and like it; although its flavor is on the light side. Anyway, congrats on finishing the book, and glad to see you post again!

    • Here is an article about the Trader Joe’s oils tested: http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/2013/08/trader-joes-extravirgins-and-floozies

      You can definitely sauté and brown with extra virgin olive oil. The real stuff has a smoking point of 400-410ºF. Deep frying and grilling is a different issue. But I certainly appreciate the flavor options out there for extra virgin olive oil, from nutty to peppery to buttery.

      The main thing is knowledge. People are buying pure, virgin, extra light and thinking it’s one thing when it really is another. I know nutritionists who didn’t realize that light olive oil is diluted with other oils, and they are telling their patients to use light olive oil thinking they are getting all of the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.

  3. Great post and information, and huge congrats on your up and coming print book :-) Yay!!! Wishing you and your family, a happy, healthy, and delicious new year!

  4. Eha at #

    Oh Laura ~ what a valuable post and I DO hope many people read the truth! Thank you for having done all this ‘homework’ and put down all the pertinent facts! Matters of course are just the same in Australia ~ as in California, there are an increasing number of olive tree growers/olive oil manufacturers to whom we can turn in pride!! One pays but exactly how much does one use per dish/recipe? For me oft just one or two tablespoons!! I try to get most of mine from local growers ~ remember giving a few friends a bottle instead of the usual wine – every one came back and, quite stunned, said : – ‘Eha, until you gave me that bottle, I did not know what real olive oil was’!!

  5. There’s a local family that presses their own and sells to restaurants around here and that’s all I like to use. I know what’s in it.

    Great post and congratulations on the book!

  6. Congratulations on your book going into print. I only buy the olive oil which is produced by small producers here in NZ and hopefully that is pure.

  7. Kirsten at #

    Wow you just never know do you. We as consumers have to continually stay on top of the marketing tactics used to ensure that we are getting what we pay for.

  8. jdp at #

    “Get to know your local olive growers.”

    Easy to say, for someone who lives in the San Diego area.

    What a joke.

    • Did you know that olive oil is produced in other states besides California? How about Texas, Georgia, Oregon and New York. You can also find countless of olive oil stores throughout the country where you can taste different varieties of olive oil and you can learn about the growers, too. No joke.

  9. jdp at #

    I appreciate all your information. I really do! But – 95% of all American olive oil comes from California. Virtually all of the rest comes from Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. While I greatly doubt that olive is grown in New York for anything other than landscaping — a google search for New York olive oil producers turned up nothing — the real issue here is the use of the term “local”. I live in Virginia, and there are no local olive oil producers. To suggest that I drive 10 hours (yes, it’s that far from where I live to Georgia) in order to “get to know” the producer(s) there… well, that is indeed a joke. It would be nice if it were otherwise. Wouldn’t we all like to live in Southern California!
    Going to an olive oil specialty store (thankfully I have one or two in my area) is great; but those aren’t local producers.

    • You do not have to go to the ranch to get to know your grower. Whole Foods, for example, puts together these cards (reminds me of baseball trading cards) about their farmers so shoppers buying produce from their stores can “get to know the grower.” In San Diego, there is only one local grower. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t try olive oil from Northern California (where the bulk of olive oil producers are located). There is one producer in all of Arizona. Can I not get to know them, even from a distance? I am sure we can disagree on semantics, but you really can get to know the grower through an olive oil specialty store. They offer pamphlets and of course most producers have a website. Obviously, not everyone has access to an olive grove, but everyone can get educated about extra virgin olive oil. That was the key point I was trying to make in this post, but apparently I did not. I will try to reword my post to fix that. I appreciate the comments – I really do.

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